Posted by: anna | March 2, 2010

St Finan of Lindisfarne

image from Western Saints Icon Project. Icon available from St. George Orthodox Information Service

Today (17 February) we commemorate St. Finan, bishop of Lindisfarne (661). From Baring Gould:

[Anglican Martyrology. Colgan in his Acts of the Irish Saints notes him on the same day. Same day in the Aberdeen Breviary, but Dempster says he was commemorated in Scotland on Feb. i6th. Among the Irish, Jan. 9th was regarded as a day on which S. Finan was honoured. Authority : — Bede, Hist. Eccl. lib. iii. c. 17, 21, 25, &c.]

England was Christianized from two quarters ; Kent and all the south received the Gospel from Rome through the mission of S. Augustine ; but the whole of the north-east of the island, called Northumbria, including the modern Northumberland, Durham, and Yorkshire, was Christianized from lona, the great monastery of S. Columba.

The first four successors of Augustine at Canterbury were all chosen from the Italian monks who had accompanied him to England ; but they all belonged to that first mission; whereas the See of Lindisfarne, as it became vacant, was filled from lona. The Scottish monks, thus placed during thirty years at the head of the Church in the North of England, showed themselves worthy of the saintly school whence they issued, and of the glorious mission to which they were consecrated.

The first monk sent from lona to replace the noble Aidan, (Oct. 22nd), was S. Finan. His episcopate was prosperous; it lasted ten years, and was not interrupted by any melancholy event, such as those which had troubled the life of Aidan, by taking from him his two royal friends. S. Finan always lived on good terms with king Oswy, and before going to join his predecessor in heaven, he had the happiness of introducing to the Church the heads of the two great Saxon kingdoms. Sigebert, king of the East Saxons, and Peada, king ot the Midland English, came to seek baptism at the gates of Lindisfarne. This made way to the conversion of their respective provinces, which this holy prelate furnished with proper missioners ; and after some time, he ordained the Scot, Diuma, bishop of the Midland English, and S. Cedd (January 7th), bishop of the East Saxons. In the island sanctuary of Lindisfarne, S. Finan caused a cathedral to be built, not of stone, like that which Paulinus and Edwin had commenced at York, but according to the Keltic custom, and like the churches built by Columba and his Irish monks, it was made entirely of wood, and covered with bent, that long rough sea-grass, whose pivot-like roots bind together the sands on the seashore, and which is still found in great abundance on the island, as well as on the sandy beach which has to be crossed before the traveller can reach Lindisfarne.

Vast as was his diocese, which embraced the two great Northumbrian kingdoms, and great as must have been his influence over the other Saxon provinces, S. Finan seems to have preserved and exercised an authority not less complete over the country of his origin, the kingdom of the Dalriadian Scots, The Scotch annalists all speak of a certain king Fergus, who, by his violence and exactions, had raised the indignation of the Scottish clergy, and called down upon himself a sentence of excommunication from the bishops of Lindisfarne, Finan and his successors. Bede, who is prejudiced against this holy prelate, because of his adhesion [adherence] to the Keltic ritual, and resistance of the introduction of the Roman usages in vogue in the South of England, nevertheless admits his great virtues, his contempt of the world, love of poverty and disinterestedness, and great diligence in preaching the Word of Life.


Troparion of St Finan tone 2
As Aidan’s successor thou didst rule the See of Lindisfarne fearlessly/ preaching the Orthodox Faith, O holy Hierarch Finan./ Boldly obeying the Gospel command, thou didst soften the stony heart of Mercia’s pagan Prince Peada/ and win his soul for Christ./ Pray for us, 0 Saint, that Christ alone will rule in our hearts,/ that He may save our souls.

Holy St Finan, pray to God for us.

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